He first came into prominence in 1826 when he spearheaded an attack on the assumptions and prerogatives of the Church of England, which claimed to be the official church of the colony and exclusive beneficiary of the CLERGY RESERVES. Ryerson emerged as the leading Methodist spokesman and a major figure in the Reform cause. He used the press to promote Methodism and continued as an influential political adviser for the rest of his life. He was president of the Methodist Church of Canada 1874-78.
During the Rebellions of 1837, Ryerson was in England but used his influence to oppose William Lyon MACKENZIE's radical philosophy and violent methods. During the 1840s he continued his active role in politics and, much to the anger of his Reform allies and many Methodists, supported Gov Charles METCALFE against Robert BALDWIN and LAFONTAINE in 1844. He appeared to have joined the Tories whom he had opposed for nearly 20 years.
In 1844 he was appointed superintendent of education for Canada W, continuing in this office until retiring in 1876. He believed that education should be universal and compulsory, and that it had to be religious and moral if it was to improve the individual and help society progress. Culminating in the School Act of 1871, Ontario gained a first-rate primary and secondary school system based on these principles. Ryerson also promoted denominational universities as the pinnacle of the educational process. During his long career, he wrote numerous pamphlets and texts, as well as several works on the history of the province and an important autobiography.
Ryerson based his long and active public career on a consistent, yet often misunderstood, political outlook. He blended a staunch loyalty to British-Canadian institutions and a conservative mistrust of radicalism with a liberal optimism in mankind, adding a deep and abiding religious commitment. He trusted that through religion and education man could fashion his own improvement and the natural, gradual evolution of society.
During his early career, when politics in Upper Canada were polarized by Tory and Reform controversy, Ryerson was condemned for not belonging neatly to either camp. However, he fitted naturally into the moderate, Liberal-Conservative alliance that predominated after the mid-1850s and in fact helped create its ideological framework through the educational system he fostered. Arrogant and strong willed, he never backed away from controversy, combining strong administrative talents, tireless energy, an anti-partisan spirit and a keen sense of what was best for his province.
Author NEIL SEMPLE
Links to Other Sites
A biography of George Ryerson, militia officer, teacher, Methodist preacher, and Catholic Apostolic minister. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
A biography of Egerton Ryerson, Methodist minister, author, editor, and educational administrator. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Egerton Ryerson and Indian Residential Schools
A biographical note about prominent 19th century Canadian Egerton Ryerson. From Ryerson University.
Statement of Apology
See the full text of the "Statement of Apology" to former students of Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Government of Canada that was delivered by the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper in the House of Commons on Wednesday on June 11, 2008.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...